Sagas & Legends
The slaying of Bard.
King Eric and queen Gunnhilda came that same evening to Atla-isle, and Bard had prepared there a banquet for the king; and there was to be there a sacrifice to the guardian spirits. Sumptuous was the banquet, and great the drinking within the hall.
'Where is Bard?' asked the king; 'I see him not.'
Someone said: 'Bard is outside supplying his guests.'
'Who be these guests,' said the king, 'that he deemeth this more a duty than to be here within waiting on us?'
The man said that some house-carles of lord Thorir were come thither.
The king said: 'Go after them at once, and call them in hither.'
And so it was done, with the message that the king would fain see them.
Whereupon they came. The king received Aulvir well, and bade him sit in the high-seat facing himself, and his comrades outside him. They did so, Egil sitting next to Aulvir. Ale was then served to them to drink. Many toasts went round, and a horn should be drunk to each toast.
But as the evening wore on, many of Aulvir's companions became helpless. Some remained in the room, though sick, some went out of doors. Bard busily plied them with drink. Then Egil took the horn which Bard had offered to Aulvir, and drank it off. Bard said that Egil was very thirsty, and brought him at once the horn again filled, and bade him drink it off. Egil took the horn, and recited a stave:
'Wizard-worshipper of cairns!
Want of ale thou couldst allege,
Here at spirits' holy feast.
False deceiver thee I find.
Stranger guests thou didst beguile,
Cloaking thus thy churlish greed.
Bard, a niggard base art thou,
Treacherous trick on such to play.'
Bard bade him drink and stop that jeering. Egil drained every cup that came to him, drinking for Aulvir likewise. Then Bard went to the queen and told her there was a man there who put shame on them, for, howsoever much he drank, he still said he was thirsty. The queen and Bard then mixed the drink with poison, and bare it in. Bard consecrated the cup, then gave it to the ale-maid. She carried it to Egil, and bade him drink. Egil then drew his knife and pricked the palm of his hand. He took the horn, scratched runes thereon, and smeared blood in them. He sang:
'Write we runes around the horn,
Redden all the spell with blood;
Wise words choose I for the cup
Wrought from branching horn of beast.
Drink we then, as drink we will,
Draught that cheerful bearer brings,
Learn that health abides in ale,
Holy ale that Bard hath bless'd.'
The horn burst asunder in the midst, and the drink was spilt on the straw below. Then Aulvir began to be faint. So Egil stood up, took Aulvir by the hand, and led him to the door. Egil shifted his cloak to his left side, and under the mantle held his sword. But when they came to the door, then came Bard after them with a full horn, and bade them drink a farewell cup. Egil stood in the door. He took the horn and drank it off; then recited a stave:
'Ale is borne to me, for ale
Aulvir now maketh pale.
From ox-horn I let pour
'Twixt my lips the shower.
But blind they fate to see
Blows thou bring'st on thee:
Full soon from Odin's thane
Feel'st thou deadly rain.'
With that Egil threw down the horn, but gripped his sword and drew; it was dark in the room. He thrust Bard right through the middle with the sword, so that the point went out at the back. Bard fell dead, the blood welling from the wound. Aulvir fell too, vomiting. Then Egil dashed out of the room; it was pitch dark outside. Egil at once ran off from the buildings. But in the entrance-room it was now seen that Bard and Aulvir were fallen.
Then came the king, and bade them bring light; whereupon they saw what had happened, that Aulvir lay there senseless; but Bard was slain, and the floor all streaming with blood. Then the king asked where was that big man who had drunk most that evening. Men said that he had gone out.
'Seek him,' said the king, 'and bring him to me.'
Search was made for him round the premises, but nowhere was he found. But when they came to the detached fire-hall, there lay Aulvir's comrades. The king's men asked if Egil had come there at all. They said that he had run in, taken his weapons, and so out again.
This was told to the king. The king bade his men go with all speed and seize every ship or boat on the island.
'But in the morning,' said he, 'when it is light, we must search all the island and slay the man.'
Next: CHAPTER XLV. Flight of Egil.